Saturday, May 30, 2015

HOLY TRINITY: Deut 4:32-34, 39-40; Rom 8:14-17; Mt 28:16-20

A time killer struck up a conversation with a priest.  "Father, I believe only what I can understand. So, I can't buy your Trinity. Perhaps you can explain it to me." The priest reluctantly put down the news paper and started. "Do you see the sun out there?" "Yup." "OK, it's 80 million miles away from us right now. The rays coming through the window," said the priest, "are coming from the sun. The delightful heat we are enjoying on our bodies right now come from a combination of the sun and its rays. Do you understand that?" The fellow answered, "Sure, padre." "The Trinity," the priest went on, "is like that. God the Father is that blazing sun. The Son is the rays He sends down to us. Then both combine to send us the Holy Spirit who is the heat. If you understand the workings of the sun, its rays, and heat, why do you have difficulty believing the Trinity?" 

Like this man we may not be able to understand the mystery of the Trinity. But we can describe the mystery, in the words of the  Athanasian Creed: "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God." Jesus knew very well that the disciples and his listeners were not able to understand the meaning of his message. Jesus expressed it by saying: "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." Jesus revealed himself to the people gradually and as understandable to them. First He taught them to recognize in Himself the Eternal Son of God. When His ministry was drawing to a close, He promised that the Father would send another Divine Person, the Holy Spirit, in His place. Finally after His Resurrection, He revealed the doctrine in explicit terms, bidding them "go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost " (Mt.28:18).

Since Yahweh, the God of Israel, was careful to protect His Chosen People from the pagan practice of worshipping several gods, the Old Testament books give only indirect and passing references to the Trinity, and the Jewish rabbis never understood them as references to the Holy Trinity.    Genesis 1:26 presents God speaking to Himself:  "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness."  Genesis 18:2 describes how Yahweh visited Abraham under the appearance of three men, an event that the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates as the “Trinitarian Experience of Abraham.” In Genesis 11:7, before punishing the proud builders of the Tower of Babel, God says, “Come, let Us go down among them and confuse their language.”These passages imply, rather than state, the doctrine of the Trinity.

All the official prayers of the Church, including the Holy Mass and the Sacraments, begin with an address to the Holy Trinity: “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We are baptized, absolved of our sins and anointed in the name of the Blessed Trinity. Throughout the world, church bells ring three times a day inviting Christians to pray to God the Father (the Provider); God the Son (the Savior); and God the Holy Spirit (the Sanctifier). We bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross invoking the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we conclude our prayers glorifying the Holy Trinity, saying “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.”  Therefore the Scripture and the liturgy point to and express our faith in the Holy Trinity.

The Trinity is actually the most practical of all Christian doctrines, because it reveals the meaning of our life. The importance of this doctrine lies in this:  we are made in the image of God, therefore, the more we understand God the more we can understand ourselves. God does not exist in isolated individualism but in a community of relationships. Therefore man can live, grow and find fulfillment only in and through society.   With this doctrine, God has revealed to us that he is not infinite loneliness, but infinite love, infinite relationship of self-giving. Richard of St. Victor, taught that for God to be truth, God had to be one; for God to be love, God had to be two; and for God to be joy, God had to be three.

We are created in love to be a community of loving persons, just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united in love. From the day of our Baptism, we have belonged to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Just as God is God only in a Trinitarian relationship, so we can be fully human only as one member of a relationship of three partners.  The self needs to be in a horizontal relationship with all other people and in a vertical relationship with God.  In that way our life becomes Trinitarian like that of God. :  “I am a Christian insofar as I live in a relationship of love with God and other people.”  Like God the Father, we are called upon to be productive and creative persons by contributing to the building up of the fabric of our family, our Church, our community and our nation.  Like God the Son, we are called upon to reconcile, to be peacemakers, to put back together that which has been broken, to restore what has been shattered.  Like God the Holy Spirit, it is our task to uncover and teach truth and to dispel ignorance. 

As we honor the Holy Trinity today, let’s try to live like the Triune God through all our relationships.  Praying for others means, making our relation with others uniting with God. Honoring and respecting others means honoring the temple of the trinity in the other. Let’s pray that God the Son lead us to the Father through the Spirit, to live with the Triune God forever in heaven.
Let’s make the prayer of  St. Francis Xavier our own: “Most Holy Trinity, Who live in me, I praise You, I worship You, I adore You and I love You.”  Amen.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

PENTECOST:Acts 2:1-11; Gal 5:16-25; John 15:26-27; 16:12-15

A church going family took a little girl who was visiting with them to church one Sunday. This girl had never been to church in her life but seemed to enjoy the experience. When they returned home and were eating lunch, they asked the girl what she thought about the experience. She said she liked it, but she was confused about one thing. She asked why the Whole West Coast wasn't included. Nobody in the family knew what she was talking about. So, she explained, "The man in the front kept talking about + the Father, Son and Whole-East-Coast."

God didn't leave out the West Coast, God included everyone in the celebration of this day. Pentecost Sunday is the third most important Sunday of the Christian year. Pentecost highlights the universality and unification of the Church. The Holy Spirit came and rested on the Apostles like tongues of fire. Then they began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." There were no interpreters present. In spite of the fact that there were persons present from 16 different geographical regions, each of them heard the disciples in their own language.  
The miracle of tongues on Pentecost thus reverses the confusion of tongues wrought by God at the Tower of Babel, as described in Genesis 11. Later, the Acts of the Apostles describes how the Holy Spirit empowered the early Christians to bear witness to Christ by their sharing love and strong faith.  

Pentecost was an amazing miracle of communication. Often times problems between groups of people get aggravated by breakdown in communication. 
A man was in consultation with his physician, and complained of an unsatisfactory physical relationship with his wife. The doctor, an avid jogger, said, "What you need is some vigorous exercise. I want you to run 10 miles a day for 30 days, and then give me a call." True to the plan, the patient called his doctor at the end of the month. "How are you doing?" asked the doctor. "Has your relationship with your wife improved?" "How should I know?" exclaimed the patient, "I'm 300 miles from home!"

A common language and communication is vital for success in any endeavor. The purpose of the church is to communicate. We are God's Word in the world today. We are called to communicate the Good News of God's love revealed in Christ.  The good news is not restricted to a particular nation or a particular race or a particular class. The Gospel cuts across every dividing line in society. This power comes on a day when they were in one accord.  In other words, there was unity and agreement. There was a commonality among them. Nothing takes the place of community. If we expect great things to happen, then we must be of one accord.

Difference in language makes it difficult for people to communicate with one another.  But the early Christians were able to grasp the meaning of each other's message, because they spoke the language of love, the language of   understanding, the language of selflessness, and the language of kindness. The feast of Pentecost demands from us that we should get united with God.
Sometimes people love their ideas more than they love Jesus. Later a major split would occur in the early church over who should get in; whether the Gentiles should be taken in. It has been said that Peter and Paul came out fighting and its been going on in the church ever since. But, in the early days, there was one accord. It was to that setting that the Holy Spirit came. And they were able to listen to the Holy Spirit and solve the problem.

The German philosopher Schopenhauer once said that people are rather like a pack of porcupines on a freezing winter night. The sub-zero temperature forces them together for warmth. But as soon as they press very close, they jab and hurt one another. So they separate, only to attempt, in vain, over and over again, to huddle together. Togetherness can be painful. But without it we will freeze. Certainly the early church had as many difficult people as do our congregations today.
Years ago, The Rock Magazine reported that there were at that time 34,000 Protestant denominations which means that, on the average, more than sixty-nine new denominations had sprung up every year since the Reformation began in 1517.  We believe that Holy Spirit works in each of them, to inspiring them to remain united as one. But like the people who tried to build the tower of Babel to show off their pride, leaders who want power and prestige stay away from communion and goes around babbling in all directions defeating the purpose of Pentecost.

The first gift of the Spirit, was a gift of speech -speech in different languages. The first act of the gift of speech was proclamation. We are never so likely to be filled with the Spirit as when we are witnessing to our faith in Christ.
There is a story about an English gentleman named Alfie. Alfie could do nothing right. He bungled everything he ever touched. One day in a moment of deep despair and desperation, he tried to take his own life. He failed at that, too. While he was in the hospital, a friend came to visit. The friend asked, "Alfie, why did you do it?" And Alfie responded, "Because there is no good news anywhere. There just can't be any good news anywhere. Because, if there was, surely someone would have come running to me to share it with me."

The world is filled with Alfies-just waiting for someone to bring good news into their lives. And, we are those charged with that responsibility. A disciple of Christ is necessarily a missionary. Today is a great day to ask the Holy Spirit to rekindle in us the spirit of new life and enthusiasm, the fire of God's love to spread the good news.  Let us repeat Cardinal Newman’s favorite little prayer, “Come Holy Spirit:”
“Come Holy Spirit
Make our ears to hear
Make our eyes to see
Make our mouths to speak
Make our hearts to seek
Make our hands to reach out
And touch the world with your love.  AMEN.”

Friday, May 15, 2015

ASCENSION OF OUR LORD  Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23; Mk 16:15-20

Aesop was a Greek slave renowned for his natural wisdom, which was recorded in his famous fables, or short stories with deep lessons. One day he was ordered by his master to go to the public baths and get things ready.(In ancient times public baths were like country clubs). On his way, he was stopped by one of the official judges of the city. The judge asked him where he was going. Aesop, thinking that it was none of the judge's business, answered, "I don't know." The judge was offended by this reply, which he considered disrespectful, and marched him off to prison for punishment (disrespectful slaves could be punished without a trial). When they arrived at the prison, Aesop turned to his captor and said, "Judge, when I told you, 'I don't know where I am going,' I was speaking the truth. Little did I think that I was on my way to prison! You see, it is true indeed that never really know just where we are going." Faced with this explanation, the judge had no choice but to let Aesop go free. This ironic story illustrates the absolute uncertainty of pre-Christian humanity about what happens after death - they just didn't know.

Neither science, nor philosophy, nor pagan religion could pull back the curtain on the afterlife. Only Jesus Christ has shined a light on this mystery, by his life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
The Ascension and Pentecost, together, mark the beginning of the Church.  The feast of the Ascension tells us that the Church must be a community in mission, guided by God’s Spirit and confident of God’s protection even amid suffering and death.

 The Ascension is most closely related in meaning to Christmas.  In Jesus, the human and the Divine become united in the Person and life of one man.  That's Christmas.  At the Ascension, this human being – the person and the resurrected body of Jesus – became for all eternity a part of who God is.  It was not the spirit of Jesus or the Divine nature of Jesus that ascended to the Father.  It was the resurrected body of Jesus: a body that the disciples had touched, a body that had eaten and drunk with them, a real, physical, but gloriously restored body, bearing the marks of nails and a spear.  This is what ascended.  This is what, now and forever, is a living, participating part of God. The Ascension, along with the Incarnation, is here to tell us that it is a good thing to be a human being; indeed it is a wonderful and an important and a holy thing to be a human being.  It is such an important thing that God did it.  Even more, the fullness of God now includes what it means to be a human being.

Jesus ascends into heaven as the living sacrifice that will continue to be the bridge between God and humanity until the end of time.
His words at this moment, therefore, are critical. And he says two things. First, he sums up the message of salvation.
He reminds his Apostles that he had come to earth in order to preach salvation, and then to make it into a reality by his suffering, death, and resurrection.
Only because of Christ's preaching and passion is it possible for mankind to experience the salvation from sin and ignorance that they desire, the peace of soul that they yearn for.

Second, he gives his followers a job. He calls upon them to be witness of these things. They will not be able to carry out their witness all by themselves, they will need the Holy Spirit, and so he promises that at Pentecost they will be "clothed with power from on high." But then they are to go to "all the nations" as Christ's witnesses.
So, in the Ascension of our Lord, we come face to face with the core of the entire Gospel: Christ's saving message being transmitted to all people through the witness of the Church.  "Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”This mission is not given to a select few but to all believers. To be a Christian is to be a proclaimer and an evangelizer. There is a difference between preaching and proclaiming. “We preach with words but we proclaim with our lives.” As we celebrate the Lord’s return to His Father in heaven – His Ascension -- we are being commissioned to go forth and proclaim the Gospel of life and love, of hope and peace, by the witness of our lives. On this day of hope, encouragement and commissioning, let us renew our commitment to be true disciples everywhere we go, beginning with our family and our parish, "living in a manner worthy of the call we have received.”

Saturday, May 9, 2015

EASTER-VI: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 Jn 4:7-10 ; Jn 15:9-17

In 1941, the German Army began to round up Jewish people in Lithuania. Thousands of Jews were murdered. But one German soldier objected to their murder. He was Sergeant Anton Schmid. Through his assistance, the lives of at least 250 Jews were spared. He managed to hide them, find food, and supply them with forged papers. Schmid himself was arrested in early 1942 for saving these lives. He was tried and executed in 1942. It took Germany almost sixty years to honor the memory of this man, Schmid. Said Germany's Defense Minister in 2000, saluting him, "Too many bowed to the threats and temptations of the dictator Hitler, and too few found the strength to resist. But Sergeant Anton Schmid did resist."

This is the central of theme of today's Gospel. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." The hero Schmid went beyond what even Jesus encouraged. He laid down his life for strangers. 
Jesus had the perfect right to demand this commandment from his followers, because he had exhibited it by living a life of love and sacrifice. He laid down his life and taught: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." This sacrificial love was imitated by many great men, like Schmid, Maximilian Colbe, and the other noble martyrs.

Jesus called us to be his friends and the friends of God. In order to make us worthy of this, he had taken away our all blemish. French writer Henri Barbusse (1874-1935), tells of a conversation overheard in a trench full of wounded men during the First World War. One of the men, who knew he only had minutes to live says to one of the other men, "Listen, Dominic, you've led a very bad life. Everywhere you are wanted by the police. But there are no convictions against me. My name is clear, so, here, take my wallet, take my papers, my identity, take my good name, my life and quickly, hand me your papers that I may carry all your crimes away with me in death."

This is what Jesus did. He took away our identity as sinners and offered himself in our place and made us righteous with God and made us friends of God. That is how he loved us.
God created us with the capacity to love and to be loved. We learn to love one another because we first have been loved by God. Love is an experience before it is an expression. One reason we are such feeble lovers of others is because we have yet to really grasp or experience the depth of God’s love for us. If we are going to love one another, the first thing we need to do is to abide in God’s love. Loved people, love people. Wounded people wound people.
To be loved is to have a friend. Jesus is not just a friend of saints. He's a friend of sinners too. To Judas, who is about to betray Him; to Peter, who is about to deny Him; to the other ten, who are about to desert Him; Jesus says, “I do not call you servants any longer; the servant does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends" (John: 15).

A friend is that unique person who asks “How are you?" and then stays around long enough to hear the answer. A friend is that rare person who comes in when the rest of the world is going out. St. Augustine said, “A friend is someone who knows everything about you and loves you anyway."  God does not love his children every now and then. He loves us with a love that will not end. God's love is everlasting, unconditional, and unending.
Christian love, while unconditionally offered, is at the same time intolerant of love's enemies in the lives of those whom we would love. Unconditional love does not equate to a blanket acceptance of all behavior.  An older gentleman paid regular visits to his physician, but between visits he was not always good at following his physician's directives. At times the physician would become exasperated and say to the man: "Larry, I love ya'! But you gotta stop doing that!" 

Christian love is just like that. It's what Paul calls "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). Like that doctor, we will say: "John, I love you, but you have to part company with alcohol because you are addicted to it." "Martin, I love you, but you've got to stop riding roughshod over people's feelings; think before you speak." Love is a decision, not a feeling. A mother loves with affection, encouragement and moral guidance to her children. Without these love of her children won’t be mature and balanced.
Today/ tomorrow is mothers’ day. For anybody in the world, a mother takes the place of God, the visible God for Children. At both ends of one’s life, one appreciates the love and role of a mother than any other time in life.
Today we thank God for Christian mothers. No other force in a child’s life is as strong as his mother's influence. "The future destiny of the child "Napoleon said, "is always the work of the mother." 
Abraham Lincoln, said, "All that I am or hope to be I owe to my angel mother."
As we honor America's 50 million mothers on this day we should remember the role that motherhood has played in shaping history, especially our own personal history.

This week: think of one small thing you can do to ease the burdens of your mother. Jesus didn't explain the meaning of true love just with words; he also explained it with his deeds, with his own suffering and death. Today, this week, let's promise to remain in his love, by loving others, especially those in our home, as Jesus showed us to love.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

EASTER V-Acts 9: 26-31; 1 Jn 3: 18-24; Jn 15: 1-8

 There are seven "I Am" sayings of Jesus in the gospel of John. I Am the true vine is the last of these sayings.
I am the bread of life - 6:35
I am the light of the world - 8:12 & 9:5
I am the gate for the sheep - 10:7,9
I am the good shepherd - 10:11,14
I am the resurrection and the life - 11:25
I am the way and the truth and the life - 14:6
I am the true vine - 15:1,5
Jesus so often did not speak literally, but figuratively. He spoke in allegories and images. He painted word pictures. Instead of literally coming out and saying what he meant, he so often would tell a story and let people draw their own conclusion. Indeed, these hidden messages of Jesus frequently frustrated his disciples. They wished that he would speak literally and not be quite so subtle.
Even the most ardent fundamentalist has to agree that when Jesus spoke the words: I am the true vine, he was not speaking literally. So, we have to go beyond the actual words and discover Jesus’ meaning.

Jesus uses his favorite image of the vine and branches to help his disciples understand the closeness of their relationship with him and the necessity of their maintaining it. They are not simply rabbi and disciples. Their lives are mutually dependent - as close as a vine and its branches.  Jesus says, the life-giving Spirit whom Jesus will send them, will be present and active within and among his disciples and will help maintain a communion with him.
The vine was part and parcel of Jewish imagery and the very symbol of Israel.  The vine was grown all over in Palestine. There are numerous Old Testament passages which refer to Israel as a vine. The vine grows luxuriantly and it requires drastic pruning. In pruning a vine, two principles are generally observed: first, all dead wood must be ruthlessly removed; and second, the live wood must be cut back drastically. Dead wood harbors insects and disease and may cause the vine to rot. Live wood must be trimmed back in order to prevent such heavy growth that the life of the vine goes into the wood rather than into fruit. As the farmer wields the pruning knife on his vines, so God cuts dead wood out from among His saints, and often cuts back the living wood so far that His method seems cruel. Nevertheless, from those who have suffered the most there often comes the greatest fruitfulness.
Even a well-pruned branch cannot bear grapes unless it abides in the vine, drawing water and minerals from the main trunk and transporting food prepared in the leaves to the main trunk and to the roots.  Jesus reminds us that we cannot bear fruit either, unless we abide in him just as he abides in us. Abiding in Christ means that God has to be inside us and we have to be inside God. Sometimes we have a relationship or union with Jesus, but not enough to have a communion with him.

A little five-year-old boy fell out of bed. His cry awakened the entire household. After his mother had safely tucked him back under the covers, she said, "Why did you fall out of bed?" Between tears and sobs, he said, "Well, I guess I went to sleep too close to where I got in."
Far too many Christians make the same mistake. They fall out of the bed of life and go to heaven; yet they slept too close to where they got in. They never learned the difference between union and communion.
When Jesus says: "I am the vine, you are the branches." He means  a union. But  when he says:"He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit." He means communion. Union is the basis of communion.

Most churches offer union with God, but Catholic Church offers means for Communion with God. All the sacraments except the Eucharist leads to union with God. In communion there is a mutual indwelling. In a family there is union of family members. Children have the union with the parents. But a complete communion is only between a husband and a wife, where one enters into the other, not only just physically, but on a deeper spiritual level as well. God is the bridegroom in the Bible and the Church or individual soul is the bride. In the Eucharist, God enters in the soul as a husband and wife have communion in their sexual relationship. That kind of relationship is not offered to other members of the family. This would probably make sense why the Catholic Church does not offer Holy Communion to Christians of other denominations as they don’t believe in such a communion with God in the Eucharist. 
Today 16 of our second graders are going to a communion relationship with Jesus. They have union with Jesus so far. The branch lives in the Vine, but the Vine will start flowing its life giving sap into the branches today and they will mutually live in each other and bear fruit. (Keep them in your prayers today.)

To bear much fruit in our life, we need pruning in our Christian life. Cutting out of our lives everything that is contrary to the spirit of Jesus and renewing our commitment to Christian ideals in our lives every day is the first type of self-imposed pruning expected of us. A second means of pruning is practicing self-control over our evil inclinations, sinful addictions and aberrations.  Let’s present our Ego, which is the non fruit bearing branch that is growing luxuriantly in our lives to Jesus and ask him to prune it so that He may grow strong in us and we may grow less in our ego.